A proposed new federal hate crimes law would allow prosecution of crimes motivated by bias against homosexuality or “gender identity,” among other characteristics, and provide funding for the feds to go after hate criminals who local authorities fail to investigate or prosecute. But in their alternate universe, religious-right anti-gay groups have seized upon the act’s language protecting Americans of all “sexual orientations” to claim that it’s all a stealth operation aimed at legally protecting people with deviant sexual fetishes, including necrophilia and bestiality.
On May 5, for instance, the Illinois Family Institute (IFI) issued a claim that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act would extend legal protections to pedophiles and necrophiliacs — those who are sexually attracted to children and human corpses, respectively — along with people with 545 other paraphilias. (Paraphilias are psychosexual disorders, typically involving sexual interest in non-human objects, non-consenting partners, or pain and humiliation. They do not include homosexuality, which is not considered a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association or any similar association of medical experts.)
The act says no such thing. After being contacted by writers at BoxTurtleBulletin, a blog that fact-checks anti-gay propaganda, the group issued a May 12 correction, though it did not bother to edit or delete the offending article on its website.
They weren’t the only ones. Exodus International, an “ex-gay” umbrella group that advocates so-called “conversion therapies” for homosexuals, formerly claimed on its website that the “APA [American Psychological Association] recognizes 30 human sexual orientations” including, among others, incest, prostitution and “telephone scatalogia.” That message appeared as a pop-up any time a reader scrolled over the word “orientation” on the Exodus website. After being reached by Ex-Gay Watch, a website that critically monitors the ex-gay movement, Exodus silently corrected pop-ups on its website to note, like IFI, that “sexual orientation,” in fact, refers to heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. Period.
Other anti-gay groups simply keep on lying. The Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy firm founded by the late Jerry Falwell, still claims that “[t]he hate crimes bill does not limit ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘gender identity’ and, thus, includes all these disorders and fetishes.” The far-right news site World Net Daily published a May 4 article headlined, “Next on Senate agenda? ‘Pedophile Protection Act’/‘Hate crimes’ law definitions would protect 547 sex ‘philias.’” Citizenlink, the magazine of the Focus on the Family, the nation’s largest Christian Right organization, didn’t mince words: “Even more concerning, the legislation could create special protection for pedophiles.” James Dobson, the group’s founder and president took the smear one step further, saying in a broadcast: “We have to assume that protection under the law would be extended to the 30 sexual disorders identified as such by American Psychiatric Association.” Dobson then went on to read a list that included incest and voyeurism. “I have to ask,” Dobson fulminated. “Have we gone completely mad? We’re going to protect all 30 of these forms of sexual perversion?”
No, we’re not. If any of these groups took as much time to read the hate crimes bill — or even newspaper accounts of it — as they did skimming psychiatric diagnostic manuals, they would know the Matthew Shepard Act does no such thing. But truth has not been of much interest to religious-right, anti-gay groups in their struggle against the perils of homosexuality. Most of these groups also have claimed that the proposed law would allow authorities to throw into prison pastors who made statements from the pulpit opposing homosexuality. That, too, is completely false. What the act would really do includes:
• Authorize federal authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes when state or local authorities fail to do so.
• Increase funding to state and local authorities to prosecute hate crimes, including those based on religion, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
The act is named after Matthew Shepard, a college student in Wyoming who in 1998 was beaten, tied to a fence, tortured and left in a coma to die by his assailants. Prosecutors and police showed that Shepard was targeted because he was gay — something that some religious right groups have also falsely claimed is untrue.